Background: Atrial fibrillation is a common complication after cardiac surgery. The aim of this study is to evaluate whether N-acetylcysteine (NAC) could prevent postoperative atrial fibrillation (POAF). Methods: PubMed, Embase and Cochrane Center Register of Controlled Trials were searched from the date of their inception to 1 July 2013 for relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs), in which NAC was compared with controls for adult patients undergoing cardiac surgery. Outcome measures comprised the incidence of POAF, all-cause mortality, length of intensive care unit (ICU) stay, hospital length of stay, and the incidence of cerebrovascular events. The meta-analysis was performed with the fixed-effect model or random-effect model according to the heterogeneity. Results: We retrieved ten studies enrolling a total of 1026 patients. Prophylactic NAC reduced the incidence of POAF (OR 0.56; 95% CI 0.40 to 0.77; P < 0.001) and all-cause mortality (OR 0.40; 95% CI 0.17 to 0.93; P = 0.03) compared with controls, but failed to reduce the stay in ICU and overall stay in hospital. No difference in the incidence of cerebrovascular events was observed. Conclusions: Prophylactic use of NAC could reduce the incidence of POAF and all-cause mortality in adult patients undergoing cardiac surgery. However, larger RCTs evaluating these and other postoperative complication endpoints are needed.